That was the morning I awoke late and feeling groggy and foggy and depressed and sluggish, as in, like a slug. And I had been feeling so well. I will never take melatonin again at one o’clock in the morning, or for that matter at any other time of the day or night again ever. Which I also said the last time this happened. The tablets I have flung in the trash, and the bottle tossed into the recycling box for the next time I visit my parents, who have a giant green plastic recycling can the city empties Monday mornings. Saturday is a good day to do the laundry, I shrugged,
tentative, munching cereal with tired eyes closed. And in preparation, I dropped last week’s spent fabric softener sheet into the trash basket from a height of no more than ten inches, and missed, the sheet skidding lightly off at an angle to alight on the floor. It is absolutely incomprehensible that you missed. But I missed. Bracing against the vanity to compensate for a stiff sore back, I leaned over to see to it that the sheet landed in the basket this time, right in the middle. In a pocket I found last week’s holiday shopping list for that Saturday when I drove to the health food store for aromatic herbal soaps, to the dollar store for an item they didn’t have so I guess I didn’t need—I saw a store sign once that read If We Don’t Have It, You Don’t Need It!—to pick up seven 9-cent prints of my children from Wal-Mart’s photo counter to update the frames on my office windowsill, and to the pharmacy. I can recycle this, pitching the folded loose-leaf toward the scrap paper box. It veered off like a crippled smoking airplane landing and sliding just off the runway, errant but intact. On the kitchen floor sat a wayward bit of plastic shopping bag, which I snatched up and released from two inches above the kitchen trash basket, only to watch it whirligig impossibly away. Again the stiff bending to correct my first absurdly failed attempt. Really, this is the way things will go today? Will everything I do miss the mark? Looking for the Elmer’s glue, the bottle fell off the shelf into the open clothes washer, the irony of something for a change falling straight into a receptacle not unnoticed albeit unwanted. I guess so, taking solace in my unintended accuracy and sighing instead of swearing, which I thought a moral victory. That bottle of glue fell straight down, a slave to gravity, just like it should have, unlike the other light flat airy things that careened off as if with a rebellious will of their own. And just then my reading glasses slipped out of my shirt pocket and clattered onto the tile as I bent to fish the glue out of the washer. I guess so, I muttered in confirmation. I remembered the leaning Pisa tower where two different size dropped cannon balls landed at the same time, and the junior high school film of a marble and a feather dropping at the exact same speed and touching down at the exact same moment in a bell-jar vacuum. But in regular breathing air the marble clanged hard and fast while the feather meandered slowly side to side, taking its time, alighting unconcernedly on the scuffed linoleum floor. Air resistance, observed my teacher dryly, apparently thinking such an obvious principle needed no further logical or mathematical or principle-based elucidation. But I learned later that air resistance is a process of friction between air molecules and the surfaces of objects, creating more drag on the feather than on the marble. Air resistance even has its own incomprehensible mathematical formula: FD = ½pv2CDA. Air resistance foiled my attempts to deposit light, flat, fluffy objects into awaiting receptacles of rubbish, sending them off at odd angles, fluttering, twirling, swaying, and otherwise veering off. Later, making chocolate mousse for my daughter’s visit, even the egg shells missed their mark, clattering and cracking messily onto the floor next to the trash basket, but this time not because of formulaic air resistance but because of another molecular force, that of egg albumin sticking to fingers, with the force of my hand-tossing together with the adhesion of sticky goo sending the shell into the pantry, a string of slime on the floor tracking the shell’s misguided trajectory. And that’s when I squeaked out a curse that caught and clanged itself into a vow not to allow air resistance and stickiness and random objects falling to foul my already struggling melatonin mood. Easy: take it easy: breathe: just go with it; just pick the damned things up and toss them again, more carefully, with focus, adjusting; just wipe up the goo; just put the glue back on the shelf; just pick up your dollar store glasses—you can get more. Move on. Get your focus engaged to deliver the day to the destinations you desire. The allegory became suddenly very obvious to me, and I stumbled down the hall reflecting on the deviating effect of resistance on the parabolic paths of my life, skittering away from better habits, avoiding the straight and narrow ways of accountability, veering away from hard conversations, whirligiging off to nonsensical darkened corners, crash landing, settling instead somewhere I do not want to be and did not intend to be, like feeling stupid about stupid mistakes, or hurting others who deserve better, or ignoring a thought to help someone and helping only myself instead, and missing the magical moment of unfettered love and the satisfaction of doing something nice and maybe even anonymous for someone who would in that moment have found that something immensely satisfying and copacetic and healing—like my neighbor bringing over a slice of Australian sticky date pudding covered in hot creamy caramel-date syrup—or returning their washed tupperware with three cups of cold aromatic fluffy chocolate-mocha mousse—but not finding that something because I did not offer it, waffling noncommittally instead in the invisible current of opportunity only to be knocked off course and to miss the target again by the unnatural angle of my parts, the frilliness of my feathers, the empty papers rocking as they fall away from well-marked places of arrival.